By Michael Avila
Special to DNAinfo.com
MANHATTAN — Wolverine never sounded so good.
If you want to see a star at the top of his game, high-step it over to the Broadhurst Theater on West 44th Street to see Hugh Jackman’s sensational return to the stage in his one-man show, “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.”
Jackman channels his inner Frank Sinatra for his latest visit to the Great White Way. Of course, Sinatra wouldn't be caught dead in sequined pants or high-stepping like a Rockette, but Jackman has no such reservations. George Clooney may be the only major star as comfortable with his own celebrity as Jackman is.
Jackman sings, he gyrates, he shares stories, and he engages the audience – and not just the people in the front row. Alternating between personal stories of career milestones and musical numbers like "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin" from "Oklahoma," Jackman is in total command from start to finish.
Among the many musical highlights is a frantic delivery of a medley from "The Music Man," which ends with Jackman adding a little hip-hop flavor to that Broadway standard. He also revisits his Tony Award-winning turn as Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz," performing several numbers, complete with flamboyant costumes.
He may not be the world’s best singer, but he turns in fine renditions of some of his favorite show tunes, like "Soliloquy" from "Carousel," or classic movie numbers like "Singin’ in the Rain" and "Luck Be a Lady."
The Australian actor delivers "I Won’t Dance" as a playful jab to people who would rather see him in action movies like "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" than singing and dancing on stage.
If "The Boy From Oz" didn't convince you, then “Back on Broadway” only confirms one of the worst kept secrets in show business. Playing a comic book superhero may pay the bills, but Hugh Jackman is happiest as a song-and-dance man.
The entire show has a breezy, Las Vegas lounge act vibe to it. Jackman soft sells his considerable sex appeal to the audience in playful, wink-wink fashion.
Later the show makes an abrupt shift in tone when Jackman talks about growing up in Australia. He talks of his experiences in the Australian outback, and his affection for his homeland.
Jackman performs a thoughtful performance of Peter Allen’s ballad "Tenterfield Saddler” and later brings out two didgeridoo players and vocalists Olive Knight and Clifton Bieundurry, who perform "Over the Rainbow." It’s hard to imagine any other performer turning over the spotlight in their one-man show like that. But like everything else in the show, he made it work.
And while it’s billed as a one-man show, don't overlook the nimble 17-piece orchestra who keep the beat whenever their leader goes off script. Which is quite often.
When a couple in the audience arrived two songs into the act, Jackman interrupted his story and turned the house lights on to playfully chide them for their tardiness. Even his reprimands were charming, and soon the couple was smiling for becoming part of the show.
Later, Jackman brought an audience member on stage and had the dancers and even a poor stagehand involved in a birthday lap dance.
Jackman's greatest gift is his ability to transform a Broadway theater house into an intimate spot like someone's living room. Even if you're up in the balcony, he makes you feel as if he's talking directly to you. In Jackman’s world, everyone’s a co-star.
And don't look away, because Jackman just may wind up sitting in your lap. It happened to a young woman at the show I attended.
It's the kind of 'you never know what Hugh is going to do' moment that makes "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway" quite different from anything else on Broadway.
It doesn't matter if it was actually spur-of-the-moment or choreographed spontaneity. Whatever it was, it worked.
(Michael Avila is a writer based in Manhattan. Follow his random pop culture musings on Twitter)